What are the Symptoms of Diverticulitis, and how can you treat it?

Diverticular disease and diverticulitis are conditions that affect the large intestine. They are little pockets or bulges that start to develop in the lining of your digestive system but are most often found in the lower part of the large intestine.

Diverticula is called diverticulosis when there are no symptoms.

When diverticula are infected and cause more serious symptoms, such as severe abdominal pain it is referred to as diverticulitis.

It quite common and one study suggests that around 35% of American adults age 50 and younger have these pouches, the risk increases with age.

Symptoms

  • Pain in the abdomen – this may last for several days and often felt on the left side of the abdomen. Although can be felt on the right side too, this is more common in people from Asian backgrounds.  Moving your bowels or passing wind may ease the pain.
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation or Diarrhoea
  • Fever
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Bloating

If the pain is very severe, you notice blood in your poo or you have a high temperature. You should see your Doctor as soon as possible.

Causes

Age – It more commonly appears as you get older, mainly after the age of 40, this is because the walls of the large intestine get weaker.

Obesity or being overweight

Eating too much red meat – Try to eat white meat if possible, such as ground turkey mince or lean chicken

Not eating enough fibre

Smoking

Not having enough exercise – aim for at least 3 x 20-minute brisk walks a week.

Can I eat nuts and seeds?

For many years it was thought that eating nuts and seeds was a problem if you had diverticulitis and would be told to avoid them completely. But a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that there was no connection found between eating nuts, seeds and corn and developing diverticular disease.

In fact, people who ate seeds and nuts were at less risk of having diverticular disease.

Although the study was mainly older males, it seems likely that most individuals would not develop diverticulitis from just eating nuts, corn and popcorn etc, as well as strawberries and blueberries that have small seeds.

Treatment

Antibiotics and painkillers – These may be necessary to treat infection and help with the pain.

You may be advised by your Doctor to only have clear fluids for a few days, this will give your digestive system a chance to rest and recover.

This may include :-

  • Water
  • Ice cubes
  • Bone broth
  • Tea or coffee with no milk, sugar etc
  • Jelly (gelatin)

After this you may be told to introduce solid foods slowly. 

Foods such as these may be recommended:-

  • White bread
  • Potato (no skin)
  • White rice
  • White pasta
  • Fish, poultry and eggs
  • Low fibre cereal

After you feel better, your doctor may recommend a high fibre diet, this should be built up slowly.

Treatment for mild stomach pain and cramps

  • Use a warm heat wrap or hot water bottle on your stomach – This is very relaxing and comforting
  • You can take paracetamol / Tylenol – but it’s best to avoid NSAIDs as these can aggravate stomach issues.
  • Try to stay calm and relax, a hot bath or laying down in a quiet room can help.

Supplements

Probiotics – Although studies are minimal showing that probiotics are successful in helping diverticulitis, many people report success when using them for overall digestive health. I take a capsule each morning and have found it helps keep my bowels regular and has stopped my bloating.

Digestive enzymes – Again studies are limited for specific success with diverticulitis, but digestive enzymes are great for digestive health. I have papaya enzymes and they are brilliant for bloating and are known to have anti-inflammatory properties that may help calm the intestine.

Red alcohol drink, cocktail

Can I drink alcohol with Diverticulitis?

A study some years ago showed that consuming alcohol was related to an increased chance of developing diverticulosis and diverticular bleeding and recommended that people avoid alcohol if they have these conditions, but studies since have not found any relationship between the condition and drinking alcohol.

Although saying this, one suggestion from the American Society of Colon and Rectal surgeons is that too much alcohol can make the colon more susceptible to diverticulitis, and so alcohol should only be taken in moderation.

This is generally good advice for all digestive complaints, a glass of wine or a beer a couple of times a week is unlikely to give you too many issues with Diverticulitis, (as long as you are feeling better and no longer on antibiotics), but everyone’s tolerance is different, and you should listen to your body and look out for any undesirable effect’s alcohol may be causing.

What is Diverticulitis?

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